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RSVP makes cutbacks to assisted transportation, mileage reimbursement

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Shelly Birkelo
Wednesday, September 5, 2012

— The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program has started a waiting list for those who need transportation assistance and cut mileage reimbursement for volunteers by 30 percent.

The changes went into effect Aug. 1 as a response to budget constraints and rapid growth in demand for transportation assistance.

Since the inception of Seniors Volunteering for Seniors in October 2010, the number of clients seeking transportation has grown from 39 to 450, and volunteer drivers have logged a total of 102,147 miles, said Robert Harlow, executive director.

In an effort to reduce the number of rides, transportation has been limited to medical appointments and trips to the grocery store or drug store, he said.

Program staff are working with those requesting services to find other arrangements, such as delivery of prescription drugs, veterinarians who can make house calls or churches where parishioners might be able to take clients for hair appointments, Harlow said.

As of June 30, Seniors Volunteering for Seniors, which also offers friendly visits, phone reassurance and respite relief, was $5,000 in the hole.

"That's why we initiated the changes and cutbacks," Harlow said.

The longer the cuts stay in place, the long the waiting list grow. The list now has four names, he said.

"It's just been three weeks since this went into effect, and based on projections need for that service isn't going to diminish. I see it continuing to increase into 2013 and beyond because it is our most utilized program and our aging population is getting bigger," Harlow said.

Cuts in United Way of North Rock County funding of $3,300 this year and next will hurt the Seniors Volunteering for Seniors $62,000 annual budget.

Harlow is applying for grants to make up for the shortfall. The gas mileage reimbursement for volunteers has been cut from 55.5 cents to 40 cents per mile, and most have been understanding, he said.

John DeSchaaf, Janesville, who has been a program volunteer driver for six months, said he would continue driving six days a week in his economical Ford Fiesta.

"I wasn't jumping up and down for joy, but I understand they have to operate within their budget constraints like everybody else," he said.

Bob Shaw, Afton, plans to reduce the 1,100 miles he logs every month to 700 miles because his vehicle gets only about 18 miles per gallon.

"I can continue driving at this rate, but I'm going to start taking less hours now," he said.

Program client Inga Machnik of Janesville has never driven, and her husband is disabled. She's grateful for the program and relieved to know most volunteer drivers will continue devoting time to the program.

"I'd be lost without it and wouldn't be able to go where I need to go," she said.

Last updated: 4:42 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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